What Is Confirmation Bias In Psychology?

I wanted to title this Confirmation Bias: Helpful Insider Facts Nobody Told You About. But then didn’t. You’ll know for yourself why.

By the way, first I’m going to place you inside an imaginary story. It didn’t happen really. Just play along.

Selling To Those Who Don’t Exist

beat your confirmation bias
How to beat your confirmation bias?

It started with you stumbling upon a marvelous idea that you believed will help people get over a painful problem in their lives. You knew it instinctively that the people out there were desperately missing it. You just have to get it out of your mind and build a real-world version of it. So, off you went.

Eleven months later, your painstakingly designed product didn’t even sell twenty units. You’d made sure there was a media blitz at launch, and even gave it a fairly visible advertising run for the last two months. It was a visionary product, as any innovator could endorse.

But strangely, nobody wanted it. So, you take a gulp of fresh air and finally decide to kill the campaign and stop the bleed. Hurt, you sit down and start to question yourself.

Were you building a product for a problem that actually didn’t exist in the real world? And you never asked your prospective customers because you never thought it was necessary? Were you designing the solution to a need-gap that existed only in your head? And you thought you were right because your friends, and everything you read on the internet, said you were right?

Let’s get this right. Those are the right questions to ask yourself. Because, as we know, you just can’t sell something to the people that they don’t ever want to buy. The way the consumer thinks and behaves is quite different now, especially in 2016. You can’t tell them anymore, “This is what I believe in, and I know this is what you want.” No, they know what they want better than you.

Were you trying to sell to people who actually had no shred of interest in you or your product, but you found it out late? Did you believe they’ll make instant an emotional decision to buy your product the moment you bring it out, because all your analysis and data said so? Did you think you’re the next Steve Jobs who could live his entire life proving that people don’t know what they want until you show them?

A Call For Your Confirmation Bias

The story above is an example of confirmation bias.

It’s about why do you tend to steer your story the way only you see it?

At this point, if you’re still there with another idea in your head and a smirk on your face, I’d say that you want to act from your confirmation bias again. Go ahead, build your next product into a perfect reality. Begin right now. No evidence against it can sway you now.

But, straightaway, what is confirmation bias in psychology? This is a specific, hidden bias working deep down in your unconscious mind. When you have this bias, you soak up all the pieces that favor your existing beliefs. And ignore the bits that challenge your old, set ideas.

This bias can stop us from seeing any situation in all fairness, and thus influence our decisions. So, we end up making poor choices.

Let me tell you this. It is always good to believe in something, and you must. But it is almost never any good to hang on to an idea because you or your friends are bringing in threads of evidence that support your idea. That is a bad case of confirmation bias.

When you act from this, you find and interpret information to endorse an idea in such a way that it becomes immune to all rejection. Even if it was a flawed idea to begin with. As I told you, what it makes you do is soak up all the bits that support your idea, and reject everything else.

The Skeptics Dictionary defines confirmation bias as a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs.

Your confirmation bias makes you feel infallible. It convinces you that your original idea has always been a killer one.

How To Beat Your Confirmation Bias

Stop and think. Ask yourself these:

  • Did you begin with assumptions?
  • Were you just seeing things to confirm what you already knew?
  • Was your idea closed to criticism and conflicting evidence?

If you answer any of these with yes, then you had been a victim of your own confirmation bias?

But there is way to beat it. You don’t need any special training in some abstract method as Bayesian logic. It’s easy to remember, follow, and practice.

Start out with questions and curiosity. Be wary of your ideas holding you in straitjackets. Ask other people’s views with an open and receptive mind.

blue sky, tree, water

What You Should Have Done Instead

You should have found your customers first, in your story, that is.

It is safe to believe that in these times you won’t fail because your product had poor design, but because your product doesn’t solve a real human need. You will fail because you did not take any critical feedback. You will fail because you kept your product sealed and wrapped while you perfected it in a vacuum.

Even if it was a poor design, if it had customers you could improve it. The only way you can ever sell your product is by putting it before those who are sure they need it. Find them first. Go out and walk the hard ground to find what do these people do who could someday be your paying customers.

Notice them. Hear them. Engage them.

Feel their hopes. See their dreams. Sense their desires.

Nurture a small army of aficionados first, with an idea, a vision, or a minimal viable product. You can always keep building your product to incremental perfection at later stages. First, start selling it.

It’s all about what people want. And if you don’t plan to ask them before you build it, then perhaps you actually don’t plan to sell it.

Be wary of being caged by your own ideas. Ask others' views with an open mind. Before you build your product, find your customers. Feel their hopes. See their dreams. Sense their desires. Click To Tweet

If tomorrow, another idea of a still more brilliant product come to you, please don’t rush to build it. Even if it had the potential to change the history of human progress. Don’t be product-obsessed from the beginning – that was the job of Mr. Jobs. Instead, be people-focused. In particular, keep your focus on your niche market.

So, I did place you inside an imaginary story. It didn’t happen actually.

And don’t let it happen.

Or, did it happen?

What Is Confirmation Bias?

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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.

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